Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thai protests cancel Asian summit

BBC Saturday, 11 April

A summit of Asian leaders in Thailand has been cancelled after anti-government protesters broke into the venue in the resort of Pattaya.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva declared an "extreme state of emergency" in Pattaya for several hours while the leaders were airlifted from the area.

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) summit was due to have been held on Saturday and Sunday.

Thailand has been in turmoil, with the opposition demanding fresh elections.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says Thais have spent months organising the summit, but security around the venue collapsed in a matter of hours as thousands pushed their way through the police cordon.

Article & Video

Painting the protest red

By Alastair Leithead

BBC Asia correspondent, Bangkok

Thailand's political protesters are a colourful bunch and today was the day of the reds. It is hard to say exactly how many crammed into the normally busy streets surrounding Government House, but they came in their tens of thousands.

BBC Asia correspondent, Bangkok


The most obvious icon amid the placards and signs was Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister deposed in a coup in 2006 and now a fugitive from Thai justice who has been stirring up the crowds for the past two weeks.

His video-linked speeches from exile have pushed the red-shirted demonstrators to a new level by naming one of country's most important statesmen as the orchestrator of that coup.

The red versus yellow divide is not just about one man - the red shirts broadly represent the poorer, more rural people who were insulted by the rhetoric the more elitist-supported yellows used in saying they did not understand politics and that the popular vote should be diluted.

That has not stopped those from Bangkok from joining a campaign which they hope will increase democracy.

Samita Khunsirasa said she came to the protest to demand that parliament be dissolved and new elections be held.

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